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by Mark Causey

Sword and sorcery, it seems, has never been a pure genre since Record of Lodoss War. From Ryu Knight, with the inclusion of mechs, to Fortune Quest, with its ID tags containing level-up info, new spins on the Dungons & Dragons hack and slash adventurers have been popping up with a slow, but steady regularity. Orphen puts its own spin onto the genre, but in subtle ways. Still present are the highly destructive and flashy spells, which are always a plus in my book. However, what seems to be the "big bad guy with subordinates" turns out to only be the surface image of a fully developed cast on both sides of the plate (with two striking exceptions).

On the protagonists' end, the crew consists of a good assortment of characters. The first is the title hero, Orphen, a magic-user who has traumatic past that drives him forward towards his conflict with the Mages' Tower and Bloody August. Then, there is Magik (or Magic, Magick; whatever will strike AD Vision's fancy), Orphen's young apprentice. He is a bright and happy lad with his own wishes and desires. Another character on Orphen's side is Cleo, a young woman who has a tendency of jumping to conclusions a little too fast. She seems to just be along for the excitement at the beginning, but is being drawn emotionally towards Orphen. The notable exceptions of a well-fleshed ensemble are the two dwarfish fellows, Vulcan and Douchin, who seem to be indebted to Orphen. For the most part, the pair are porters, trap-springers, and a pitiful attempt at comic relief. The glasses wearing half, Douchin, seems to be a narrator. His lines show his knowledge of everything that's not immediately apparent to us. On the other end, the antagonists appear, in the beginning, to want solely to foul up Orphen's actions and to delay his progress. However, we eventually find out that both Chairudoman (Childman?) and Hartia have an intricate past with Orphen, and are driven by their own goals. Towards the end of the series, those goals make them pseudo-protagonists. The lines are not clearly drawn in this one, which adds to its flavor.

Orphen appeals to a particular audience. That audience requires patience for its slowly developing storyline, which is due partly to characterization. I enjoyed the series. The voices had their appeal, and I was interested throughout. However, it did drag on at times, and the intermediate villains were a little stock. There was a decent bit of padding in the middle of the series. One could probably watch the first and final eight episodes and still be able to follow the story. Despite what the intro shows, Orphen is not the typical 'bad-ass' in that he does what he knows and only that. We don't see him become a swordmaster upon acquiring the Volt Andres sword, nor is his magic supreme in the least. A good portion of the anime seems to come from his struggle against gods and dragons with his wits, abilities and friends. The music is appealing, but it can be repetitive. The opening song and animation hasn't lost its appeal yet, but I can't say the same for the ending. If you can make it past the two runts and enjoy a fantasy setting with a little magic, then this is a good ride. The series is especially good towards the end, when the pace reaches its peak. And with the new season already started, entitled Matsujushi Orphen Revenge, you can look forward to more adventures of your favorite (and not so favorite) characters in the future.

"Ware wa hanatsu, hikari no hakujin!"




Sorcerous Stabber Orphen

Akita Shoten, Kadokawa Shoten, TBS

Release Info
24 episodes
Aired on TBS;
Airdate: 10.3.98 to 3.27.99



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